We've been studying the book of Galatians, and if you'll turn to chapter 3, we'll just kind of finish up verses 6-14, which we began a couple of weeks ago. "Men are brought to God by grace," says Paul. That's why, when people are standing up and talking about the change in their life, they give God the glory for it, because it's His work. And this is certainly clear in our own testimonies, and it's abundantly clear in Scripture.
Now we've been talking about, in the book of Galatians, the subject of justification. Now “justification” is a theological word, but it simply means “to be declared righteous,” or “to be declared right before God.” All men are born into the world wrong, living in the wrong, living in sin, on the outs with God, at odds with God, at opposite ends from God. There is no way they can have fellowship with God; they have no right to enter the presence of God. They cannot know God; they cannot understand God. Something has to happen to make those people right with God, to allow them to have fellowship with God, to be acceptable with God, to live with God, to have God's life in them, to have God's love, to spend eternity with God. And that which makes them right with God is called justification, justifying them.
Now, justification, then, is the very hinge and pillar of Christianity. An error in the doctrine of justification is like a defect in the foundation of a building; everything from there on up is off. The doctrine of justification is the basis of New Testament doctrine for a biblical Christianity.
Now the word “justification” comes from the law courts. A person was arraigned before a judge; they were pronounced guilty, unjust. And that's true of every man born into the world, pronounced before the bar of God unjust. What is it that can make a man just in the eyes of God? What is it that can make him righteous or right in the eyes of God? What is it that can make him, rather than to be condemned, to not be condemned? Only one thing, the Bible says, "We are justified freely by his (what?) grace." It's all of grace. Nothing we've done, nothing we've earned, no good works that we did, no religiosity, no going to church, getting baptized, reading the Bible, all kinds of things like that. What justifies a man before God is the freedom of the grace of God in behalf of that man.
Justification is such a marvelous work of God that the whole Trinity is involved in it. I don't know if you've ever thought of it like that, but the entire Trinity is involved in justification. Romans 8 verse 33: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies." So the Father justifies; He is involved in the act of justification, Romans 8:33. In Acts 13:39, "And by Him,” and here it’s talking about Christ, “all that believe are justified." So Christ is involved in justification. And in 1 Corinthians 6:11, it says, "You are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, even by the Spirit of our God." So the whole Trinity is involved in the act of justifying the sinner.
You say, "Now why does God do this? Couldn't God just look down here and let sinners go on?" Yes. Why does God freely want to forgive? Why does God want to bring somebody into the law court and say, "You're guilty! You're guilty! You're guilty, but I'm going to let you go free." Why does He want to do that? Simple.
Ephesians 1:6; don’t look it up, just listen to it. Ephesians 1:6 says, "He does it to the praise of the glory of His grace." Above all things in the universe, what is it that God wants? Glory. And God gets glory when His attributes are on exhibit. And one of the attributes of God is grace, and so when God enacts grace, He therefore gains glory, because men see His grace. And so God wants to pardon guilty sinners for the purpose of bringing praise to His glory. "That men may praise the glory of His grace."
God wants the angels to see it, too, doesn't He? We saw that in the book of Ephesians, where it says in chapter 3 verse 10 that God has saved men and all of this, "To the intent that the principalities and powers in heavenly places might see the wisdom of God." God wants to display His grace and His wisdom before all. The supreme motive of God, then, in the salvation of men is simply His own glory.
Let me show you a verse that’s interesting, Ephesians 2:7. It says in verse 6 that He saved us; verse 7 says why: "In order that, in the ages to come, He might display the exceeding riches of His grace." God wants to display His attributes! That's His nature, and so men have been redeemed in order for God to put His glory on display. God's supreme purpose, then, is to demonstrate before all intelligences, principalities, powers, and angels, the exceeding riches of His grace. God wants all those living creatures in all of the universe to see the hopelessness of sin, the lostness of man, and the transformation of salvation, and the marvelous nature of grace. The very purpose for which the church was called was to display His glory.
There is an interesting little verse in Jude. It says this in verse 24. "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." Interesting way to interpret that verse is to assign the joy to God, that God gains exceeding joy when you see His glory. So salvation, then, is for the purpose of giving God glory.
Now listen, friends, this is important. Watch. If God saves us to the praise of His glory and all that He does is to bring Him glory, then listen, if you have anything to do with your salvation, what does that do to His glory? It diminishes it that much, doesn't it? Because you did that. If any good work that you ever did, or any act of human merit that you have ever done, at all was involved in your salvation, then part of the glory belongs to you. No, it cannot be. You were saved to the praise of the glory of His grace.
There is no room for human merit, believe me. Romans 3:19: "We know that whatever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in His sight." There is nothing a man can ever do to bring about his own justification. There is nothing a man can ever do to make himself right with God, an absolute impossibility. For that would be to steal the glory of God. In Galatians 3:22, right there in our chapter, it says, "The Scripture hath concluded all under sin." All men are in sin, hopelessly! And the Scripture concludes that “in order that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." God locks all men in sin in order that they might recognize that it is only through His perfect act that anything could ever be done in their behalf.
In Romans, I think it’s chapter 11, verse 32: "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief” I love this “that He might have mercy upon all." You see, God leaves every man with no answer, no out, no argument, no hope, no nothing, and then offers him a free salvation. Why? Because then, when that man is redeemed, all the glory belongs to whom? To God. If you had anything to do with your salvation by any of the good things that you ever did, then you have stolen the glory of God and God Himself says that, "My glory will I not give to another." All men are sinners, all men are equally sinners, they're all equally condemned.
John 3:18, you know the verse: "He that believeth on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already." Any man who believes not is condemned. Faith is the only thing that apprehends the free grace of God.
In John 1:16, just to point out a couple of things, it says this. "And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." Anybody who is saved is saved because of grace. It's His fullness, it's His grace granted to us. In Romans 5 verse 17: "If by one man's offense death reigned by one” that is, through Adam, “much more they who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness." Righteousness, justification, or being right with God, is a gift of grace, you can't earn it. There is no way to earn it. "Where sin abounded (what?) grace abounded more." Grace super abounded, in the Greek.
So the apostle Paul, in several places, also I think in 2 Corinthians, isn’t it, verse 14 and chapter 9, "And by their prayer for you, who long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." Salvation’s a gift, a gift of God's grace. There’s not one thing you could do to earn it. "For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves." It's a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. If it was of works, we'd all boast, wouldn't we? "What did you do to get saved?" "Oh, I did forty-three of these spiritual things." "Well, what did you do?" "Well, I didn't do much. God did most of it, but I just threw in a little extra at the end." See? No, justification is purely by grace. Now that's why the book of Galatians was written.
The book of Galatians was written to combat the heresy that you could add works to faith and therefore make yourself righteous. Or that you could say, "God made me righteous and I just had to do this." Any addition of works diminishes the absolute nature of grace. Paul says in Romans, "If you're going to add works, then grace is no more grace." See. "I am what I am," said Paul, "By the grace of God and a little help from me." Is that what he said? That would sound ludicrous. "I am what I am by the grace of God, period." Yes.
No, you can't do anything to save yourself. And you know what happened in Galatia? Remember what happened? Paul went to Galatia, founded these churches — Galatia was an area of many cities — founded at least four churches and all of a sudden the Judaizers came, Jews who believed that you had to do a little thing to help God out in salvation. God would do a wonderful thing in Christ, and then if you did some of these spiritual push-ups over here and took care of the legalism, and got yourself circumcised and obeyed the law, and you could accompany your faith with works and therefore be saved. And they had a “works plus faith” system and they sold it to the Galatians, and the Galatians bought it.
Paul says in verse 1 of chapter 3, "Oh foolish Galatians, who bewitched you?" And so he's writing Galatians to answer the heresy that you can get saved by faith plus works. Now the book is divided very simply, we told you. The first two chapters, he defends his apostleship and his authority. You see, the Judaizers had questioned whether he even had a right to speak. He was preaching, "Grace, grace, grace, grace, no more law, no more legalism, no more ritual, no more ceremony." And the Judaizers came in and said, "Ah, Paul’s a Johnny-come-lately, he wasn't one of the original, he comes out of there up north, and so forth and so forth and so on, he doesn't represent the Jerusalem church, he represents the Gentile church, etc., etc. Don't even believe him." And so for two chapters, Paul defends his authority.
The second thing the Judaizers did was undermine his doctrine of salvation by grace alone, and so in chapter 3 and 4 he defends that. The third thing the Judaizers did was undermine his teaching on the life of liberty, and he does answer that in chapters 5 and 6.
So we're in chapters 3 and 4, and here Paul is defending his doctrine of salvation by grace, which is not his, but God's who gave it to him. Now his approach covers two areas. We saw this last time. He defends the doctrine of salvation by grace on the basis of experience and Scripture, experience and Scripture. You heard testimonies tonight, and in each case, people talked about what God was doing in their life, experience, and also made reference to Scripture. Those things go together all throughout the Scripture. You hear Peter who says, "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Then he goes on to say, “But we have a more sure word of prophecy, that which is written."
And so Scripture and experience go together in Paul's argument. And in verses 1-5, he talks to them about their experience. He says, "You've experienced salvation by grace, now what are you going to go back to the law for? What kind of deal is that? You already know you got saved by faith, by grace alone, what do you need? What are you going to add?" Verse 3, "You began in the spirit, are you going to be made perfect by the flesh? How come, with such a good start, you're going to go backwards now? You've already experienced salvation by grace, what else do you need?"
And then, moving from experience, he goes into Scripture in verse 6. And from verse 6 to chapter 4 verse 7, Paul defends the doctrine of salvation by grace on the basis of Old Testament Scripture, on the basis of Old Testament Scripture. And I think this is an exciting thing, because the Judaizers would come in and where would they base their argument? On Old Testament Scripture because they were Jews, who believed the Old Testament was still in vogue, it was still the way to go, and so they would defend their argument on the basis of Old Testament Scripture. So Paul just takes Old Testament Scripture and shows them what it really taught, tremendous.
Well, in his presentation of Scripture in defense of justification by grace through faith, he has two ways to approach it: Positive and negative. That's the two points of the outline, simple. Point one, positive proof; point two, negative proof. Now the positive proof came in verses 6-9, and we saw this last time. Notice the name in verse 6: Abraham. Now Paul uses Abraham as his example. The positive illustration of justification by faith is Abraham.
Remember God said to Abraham... Abraham lived in a place called Ur. Ur was like over where Babylon used to be, over in the middle of Mesopotamia, over by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, going east from Israel toward India, toward the Far East. And here lived old Abraham. And he wasn’t real old at that time, but he lived there and he was a typical, run-of-the-mill pagan, except he probably was a little bit better than most. And God comes to him and says, "Abraham, get thee up and get thee out unto a land that I will show you.” I'm not going to tell you what it is or what I've got in mind. Just go. And he did. It's amazing faith. And he gets over there, and God says to him, "Now you're going to have a baby." And he believed God. And Abraham became a pattern for faith, a man who believed God. And Genesis says, "And Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness."
Now notice, Paul uses Abraham in verse 6 just to show that. "Even as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Paul is saying this: "Hey, you people. You can go clear back to Abraham, and you're still going to find that justification comes by faith, simply believing in what God has done. Not doing anything, just believing. Not works of righteousness which we have done, but just believing in the free, gracious act of God." And so he uses Abraham as his example. You say, "Why does he use Abraham?" Well, we can't be absolutely positive, but it seems as though they probably used Abraham as their example. They probably said, "Well, you know old Abraham. Boy, he...he came along and he had to be circumcised."
You can go back to Genesis 17, and the Lord did tell him that. Circumcision became the sign of the physical Israelite, obviously not the true Israelite in his heart. A person could be outward, physically circumcised and never affect his heart. That's what Romans 2 is saying. But in Genesis 17:9, "And God said to Abraham, 'Thou shalt keep my covenant, therefore, thou and thy seed after thee, and their generations.'" This is the covenant. "Every male child among you shall be circumcised. Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male child in your generation, that he is born in the house or brought with money of any foreigner that is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised. My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant and the uncircumcised male child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people. He hath broken my covenant."
And here was a national, physical identity with Israel. And God said, "Abraham, this is going to be a sign." Well Surely the Judaizers would say, "You see, God said all the true children of Abraham, all the true ones would have to be circumcised." And so they were selling circumcision as an act by which a man brought himself into a right relationship to God. They would teach that the natural descendants of Abraham were those that were circumcised, and the only way Gentiles could get into the blessing of God was by circumcision. And so they made circumcision necessary for salvation.
And so Paul just takes Abraham, and says, "If you want to use Abraham for an argument, I'll use him too." And he says, "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness." I told you two weeks ago Abraham was circumcised fourteen years after God said that, so circumcision didn't have a thing to do with Abraham being declared righteous. Fourteen years later, he was circumcised, Genesis says. Well that’s a clear statement.
Verse 7 then, Paul goes on; we’re still reviewing. "Know ye, therefore, that they who are of faith, the same are the sons of Abraham." His was a faith salvation. And so the apostle Paul says, "They that are of faith, the same are the sons of Abraham." In a spiritual sense, we are the children of Abraham. Not physically. I'm not a Jew; when I become a Christian, I didn’t become a Jew. I'll never be a Jew, but I am a child of Abraham in a spiritual sense. He is kind of like the primary example of faith. He is sort of the father of faith. And all who follow in his kind of faith, believing God, are spiritual children of Abraham, not physical.
Verse 8: "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, 'In thee shall all nations be blessed.'" And so Paul says, "Even the Old Testament predicted this; that all nations as nations, Gentiles as Gentiles, would be able to be blessed in Abraham through faith. The key words there in the middle of the verse, “through faith.” So God is going to justify the Gentiles, not by circumcision but through faith. And that's what God meant when He said to Abraham, "In thee shall all nations be blessed."
Now what does it mean: "In thee shall all nations be blessed?" Well, it was simply this: Through the loins of Abraham came whom? Messiah. And so it was in Messiah that all were blessed. So you take that far enough back, and it was the seed of Abraham that became the One who blessed all. So He said, "In thee, in thy seed, in thy loins is that which shall come and be a blessing to all." So in the very calling of Abraham... Look at it, the end of verse 8, in the very calling of Abraham was the promise that Gentiles could be saved as Gentiles. They didn't have to become Jews; they didn't have to get circumcised and keep all the ceremony and the law. And we're just going over it very quickly. We covered it in detail last time.
So Paul says, "Abraham was justified by faith. And anybody else who believes like Abraham did is a spiritual child of Abraham." And God, from the very start, told Abraham that Gentiles would be saved through faith. There was coming One from his loins who would be the One to bless all nations, as nations. And that assumed that they wouldn't become Jews. If they were all nations being blessed, they would have to be other than Jews. Otherwise, it would say, "In thee shall anybody be blessed who becomes a Jew." No. "In thee shall all nations be blessed." So Paul proves his point.
Verse 9, "So, then, they who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." God blesses those who put their faith in Him. So Paul proves his point by quoting from Genesis the Old Testament statement, "In thee shall all nations be blessed," and shows that this was nothing but a prediction that through the...the loins of Abraham would come One in whom people could put faith and be saved. All right, that's the positive proof, very quickly.
Let's look at the negative proof and the part that runs from verses 10-14, and we’ll just go through this quickly as well, negative proof that salvation is by faith as seen in Old Testament Scripture. And I want you to listen to this, because I think it's important. You say, "What do you mean negative proof?" Just this: In verses 6-9, Paul showed what faith did. You got that? Paul showed what faith did. Faith justified Abraham. Now Paul shows what works can't do. OK? That's the negative. Here's what faith does do; here's what works can't do. And boy, he really comes on with a strong, strong argument. And Paul uses, again, the Old Testament. He used it all the time. In Acts 26:22, he says, "Having therefore obtained help from God, I continue unto this day witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say." Paul said, "I always use the Old Testament. This isn't any new stuff." And so Paul is now going to say what works can't do. He said what faith could do; here's what works can't do.
And he says three things basically. First, he says this. "The man who accepts the law as the way of salvation has to stand or fall on the basis of law." In other words, if you want to get redeemed by law, good luck. The second thing he says, "It's impossible to stand on the law." Third thing, "A person who tries is cursed." So if you're going to try to live by law, you’ve got to go whole hog for the law. Secondly, you ought to know it's impossible. Thirdly, you ought to know that you're cursed for failing. And it's a head-on collision — believe me — with the Judaizers. You can't just sprinkle a little law in your life and say, "Well, I really believe it's faith, and I do believe in Jesus Christ, and I accept what He did for me, but I’ve got to add a little works." No, if you're going to add a little works, if works have anything to do with your salvation, then you're putting yourself under law and law demands perfection. Right? So you might as well forget it. It's impossible, and if you try and fail, you're cursed.
Boy the Jews were so gung ho for the law that the rabbis even tried to prove that the patriarchs — you know Adam, through the book of Genesis, Jacob, Joseph, Isaac, all of them, the patriarchs — the rabbis tried to prove that the patriarchs kept the law even before it was written, that God had revealed it to them and they kept it all. You know why the rabbis tried to prove that? Because they wanted to have the...the patriarchs justified and they knew the only way to be justified was through keeping the law. And so they had tried to impose a legalistic system on the patriarchs who lived before Moses did. The law was everything to these Judaizers. In fact, the average Jewish scholar held the vulgar, the ummah eretz, you know, the common people, who had neither knowledge or interest in the law, were under the curse of God. The law was everything. Now here, Paul turns the table on them.
Let’s look at verse 10: "As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse." Well that's pretty strong stuff. Now here he quotes Deuteronomy 27:26. "For it is written, 'Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.'" Now listen, he says, "You go back to your Old Testament and you listen carefully. Deuteronomy 27:26 says, 'Cursed is everyone that continues not in (How many things?) all things which are written in the book of the law.'" Now he’s just backed up and he said, "Now Abraham was justified by faith. This was God's promise, that all nations would through the way of faith be justified. Faith alone proved justification. If you want to live by law, the law will curse you," is what he said. Why? "Because you are commanded to continue in everything written in the book of the law." Instead of being blessed by being put under the law, they were under a curse. Anybody who wants to live under legalism binds himself to live to the whole law. If you think you can save yourself by doing anything, you put yourself under all of it.
We were taken to the shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which is a very famous basilica, very famous church. And the virgin Mary supposedly, in Catholic tradition, appeared all over the place. And so you have the virgin of Guadalupe, and the virgin of here, and the virgin of there, and the virgin of this, and the virgin of that. And it's all appearances of Mary at all different places. And every town’s got their virgin, and their virgin appeared at a certain time and a certain place in history. And it was all supposed to be different manifestations of Mary. And this is all sort of passed down from tradition to tradition to tradition. At the shrine of Guadalupe, there is about 150 or 200 yards from the street to the...to the church, which is sinking and it slants crazily. Everything in Mexico City is sinking because it was built where a lake was, and built inadequately, and so it's all kind of sinking, but this church is kind of lopsided. But there’s about a 150-200 yard area.
And we went to this place, and all these people were crawling on their knees from the street to the entrance, between 150 and 200 yards. Old women and young women, with their knees bruised and cut and scraped, continued to crawl, holding little babies in their arms. And they crawled the whole length of that thing. And I said to a particular fellow who is a missionary with a brother church, I said, and we all asked, "What is going on?" Well these people are really... It boils down to the fact these people are earning their salvation. They’re earning their salvation. Pain, agony, works. If you do anything to earn your salvation, you immediately are putting yourself under the whole law. That's what Paul says, the whole thing. If you're going to throw to God any good work, then you'd better give Him everything. That's the point.
I thought to myself, as I looked at those people, how tragic it is that they're trapped by the Catholic Church in this horrible system. It's pathetic, tragic. And then when I was prone to blame the Catholic Church, I remembered this, that they're all without excuse, too. Right? Because that which may be known of God is available to them; but men, in their own hearts, are somewhat satisfied by their own self-righteousness. And so the apostle Paul says, "According to your own Old Testament, you Galatians, wake up! What those Jews were telling you, they don't even know their Old Testament. They’re going to put themselves under any law they’re going to put themselves under the whole law." And Israel did this, believe me, boy.
Romans 10 verse 2: He says, "I bear them witness, they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. They, being ignorant of God's righteousness, go about to establish their own righteousness." Rather than have God's righteousness, they want to establish their own. So he says, "Cursed is everyone that continueth not." No sense in putting yourself under a legal system; all it can do is curse you.
Romans 4:15, a great little statement. "The law works wrath." That's all. The law just brings judgment. Verse 11, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident because the just shall live (what?) by faith." You know where he's quoting? Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 4, again, quoting the Old Testament. I told you he was going to use two things to prove his point: Experience, verses 1-5; Scripture verses 6 to chapter 4 verse 7. Here's another Scripture. He says, "If you even knew your own Bible, your Old Testament, you'd know Habakkuk said, 'The just shall live by faith.' The law is going to curse you; faith is going to save you."
Verse 12, "And the law is not of faith." That's an interesting statement. Well you say, what in the world is he saying? He's saying this. Law and faith are mutually opposite, mutually exclusive. The law and faith don’t go together. The law is not of faith. If you have any legalism, you violate the simplicity of faith. Now, if you want to live by the law, you want to, you know, get saved by law, then God wants perfect performance.
Remember in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus arrived and they all said, "Oh, my, we're so holy. We keep all the laws." So Jesus said, "Well, try this one on. Be ye perfect even as the Father in heaven is perfect." Hmmm. Perfect like God? If you want to live by law, that's the standard. "Well, we've never killed." If you hate your brother, you're a murderer. "Well, we've never committed adultery." If you look on a woman and lust after her, you've committed adultery in your heart. Jesus just destroyed their claim to self-righteousness. No, you can't live by the law. If you try, you bring a curse. You break one single law, and you violate everything.
You know, it's kind of like being a ship. If you were a ship, moored to some great, solid rock, and had this great chain holding you. And a tremendous, herculean storm came, only one link would need to be broken and you're gone. That's how it is with the law. And it says, in verse 12, "The man that does them will live in them." Buddy, if you want to live by law, that's exactly what you've got to do. If you want to do the law to get saved, then you're going to have to live it to the nth degree.
That's Leviticus 18:5. And he uses another Scripture. He's taking the Old Testament and turning it on them. Leviticus 18:5 is the accuser; they can't keep the law. So instead of being saved by the law, the only thing the law does is curse you. The law just shows you're a sinner. There's only one way to be saved, and that's through faith in Christ.
So Paul destroys the hope in the law. First of all, he says, "If you want to keep the law, you’ve got to live by the whole thing." That's what he said in verse 12. You’ve got to do it all. Then he says, in verse 11, backing up, "But you can't. You can't do it all. By the law, in the sight of God, no man is justified." Thirdly, backing up to verse 10, "If you try, the only thing you'll be is not saved but (what?) cursed."
Well, Paul closes with a glorious remedy for such desperate people. You can't achieve self-righteousness. You can't make yourself right before God. The Judaizers are wrong. Circumcision, and ritual, and ceremony, and all that stuff, doesn't do it. Then how does it happen? How can we come to God? How can we be made righteous? What's this all about?
Verse 13: "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. For it is written, 'Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.'" Now look at the verse, oh what a tremendous verse. We should spend time preaching for a month on that verse. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law." The word “redeemed,” exagorazō, to buy out of the marketplace, to redeem a slave. Christ has purchased us back from slavery. Say what was the price? Listen. "For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot," First Peter 1:18 and 19. The price was blood. The only thing that could pay for our sin was blood, and Jesus took the curse on Himself.
Show you something interesting, verse 13. "Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree." That's Deuteronomy 21:23, and Paul uses another Old Testament verse. Jesus was made a curse. He was made a curse for whom? For us. He paid our debt, paid our price.
It's interesting in Jewish history that every criminal sentenced to death under the Mosaic legislation, and executed, usually by stoning, was then taken and tied to a post, or quote, “hanged on a tree.” And this was as a symbol of his rejection by God, and it was to be a visible thing which the people could see. So after the stoning, the body was tied to a post as a visible representation of the man being rejected by God. Now let me hasten to say this. This verse does not mean that a man is cursed by God because he died on a cross, or because he was hanged on a tree. It means that because he was cursed by God, he was hanged on a tree. See the difference? He was not cursed by God because he was hanged on a tree; he was hanged on a tree because he was cursed by God. You may... You could die on a cross and not be cursed by God. But in those days, when men were rejected by God, that was the sign of His rejection as they were placed on a post. And Jesus was cursed by God.
You say, well how? How could Jesus be cursed by God? Well, certainly not because of His own sin, but He bore in His own body our sins. Can God look on iniquity? No. So God spent the violence of His curse on Christ in our behalf.
Well, I'll tell you something, folks, it's no wonder that the Jews couldn't believe Jesus was their Messiah. Right? If they knew Deuteronomy 21:23 and they knew Jesus died on a cross, it's no wonder that they would have a hard time believing He was their Messiah. They would say, "How in the world could the Messiah, the Anointed of God, be cursed by God?" In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12:3, the implication is that, when the Gospel was preached, the Jews would scream back, "Jesus is accursed! Jesus is accursed!" And the reason they would do that is probably tied to the idea that He was hanged on a tree. Well, some Jews saw that He was hanged on that tree for their sake, and that made the difference.
Look at verse 13, two words, no greater words ever written, "for us," huper hēmōn, on our behalf. We deserved the curse, but He took it. Friends, listen. Can you keep the law? No. If you can't keep the law, are you cursed? Yeah. But God comes along and says, "I'm not going to make you bear your own curse, I'll put My Son in the substitution place. And He'll take your curse." And God spent the fury of His curse against sin on Jesus, who bore all your sin. Your sin has already had its death blow, isn't that great? The curse has already been spent, in all its fury, on Jesus Christ for your sin. My sin, friend, and yours, is already paid for. It's done! The curse is lifted!
Verse 14: "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, and that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." The curse is lifted, and God did it for two reasons. One, that the blessing of Abraham, that the blessing of righteousness, that’s the blessing of Abraham, being made righteous, might come on all the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, and that they might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. Those two things. As always, God has a purpose. He wants all men to be made righteous and to receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. So He spent the curse on Christ, that we might be blessed; that we might receive the Holy Spirit.
How do you receive it, John? Well, look at the end of verse 14. Two words: Through (what?) faith. We know this. You say, "What kind of faith?" Well, you ever thought about what real faith is? What justifying faith is? Give you three quick shots. First of all, self-renunciation; that's saving faith; it starts here, self-renunciation. It's when you come to the place where you absolutely put no hope in yourself. That's justifying faith. That’s the start of it. You're like...like the children of Israel. Pharaoh is in hot pursuit. Ahead of them is the Red Sea, about to devour them; there’s only one direction to go, and that’s up, and they can’t do it. Right? That's the way the sinner is. The sinner who is coming to the point of true justifying faith sees the justice of God pursuing him. He sees hell waiting to devour him. He knows he needs to get to God, but he can't. And in desperation, he knows he has no resource in himself and there's nothing he can do.
Then the second thing: Reliance; self-renunciation and reliance. All of a sudden, he is offered a way of escape in Jesus Christ and he casts himself on Christ's mercy, forgiveness, and power to save. The last word is “appropriation.” Christ offers the gift, and he takes it. That's saving faith. Not very complicated, is it? It's when you've reached the end of your rope. Some may say, "Well, my faith is weak, so weak." Well, it’s all right. A weak faith can receive a strong Christ. How about this? The promise is made not to strong faith, but true faith, true faith. "Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief." So Paul says, yes, justification is by faith. You know it from experience, verses 1-5; you know it from Scripture. Positive proof? Abraham, justified by faith. Negative proof? The only thing that ever happens with the law is curse.
Beloved, you need to be made right with God, don't you? How are you going to do that? How are you going to do it? You say, "Well, I'm going to be good, go to church, God will like me a lot. I'll read the Bible, pray, be religious." You're cursed. You say, "Hey, I can't do anything! I'm the worst, I can’t do anything, I can't save myself." You cast yourself on the mercy of Jesus Christ; you're blessed with Abraham, a child of faith.
I close with a very pointed Scripture. You've heard it before; listen again. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life." Let's pray.
Father, we thank you for the marvelous statement of Deuteronomy 30:19 which we just read, that You have set before us blessing and cursing, faith and law, grace and works. Father, may we choose blessing, through faith. Thank you for the testimony of these men tonight, who put their faith in Jesus Christ and have known the transformation that He alone can bring about. Father, help us never to depend upon ourselves, but always to be at the end of our ropes, always to be trapped between hell and Thy justice. May we know that it is only as we fall on Your mercy that there is any hope.
We pray, Father, that You would speak to the heart of anyone here tonight who doesn't know You as Savior, that You’d bring them to the place where they are trapped between hell and Your justice. There’s no escape. That they may come to Jesus Christ and accept the free and blessed gift of salvation that He offers. We pray in His blessed name, amen.
You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You's Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/connect/copyright).